Neumann U87 as a close guitar cab mic?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Wizard of Ozz, Jan 2, 2018.


  1. Wizard of Ozz

    Wizard of Ozz Silver Supporting Member

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    Anyone have any luck with a Neumann U87 as a close mic for recording a guitar 4X12 cabinet live in the studio?

    I know these are used a lot for vocal mics and room mics... several feet back from a cab... but what about as a close mic? I know you need to activate the PAD so you don't blow it up... but any experiences appreciated.
     
  2. tenchijin2

    tenchijin2 Supporting Member

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    "Blowing it up" isn't really an issue, but it is much more likely to distort if used up close. You could try it, but I've found pretty much all LDC mics sound better a couple feet back from amp speakers.
     
  3. Pedro58

    Pedro58 Supporting Member

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    It'll distort. But that may sound cool depending on the application and what the song calls for...
     
  4. Wizard of Ozz

    Wizard of Ozz Silver Supporting Member

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    It would be used for metal guitar... so distortion will not be an issue. Actually an added benefit perhaps.
     
  5. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    Almost never (maybe on a clean amp not playing too loud). but there is a reason most engineers grab the dynamics for this. Condenser mics are best for nuance recording, like acoustic guitars or voice.

    The point, really, is that like speakers, a U-87 is too high fidelity for that purpose. Just like a guitar speaker cabinet is not like a PA speaker cabinet. The SM57 response just matches guitar speaker freq response better. The U-87 will get a lot of the highs and hiss you don't really want or need.
     
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  6. jmoose

    jmoose Member

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    There's good distortion and bad distortion... the type of harmonic distortion you get from an overloaded capsule and electronics is probably not what your looking for and anything you'll find desirable.

    You can still blow the mic up with the pad engaged, not just an 87 but any mic. The pad is after the capsule so if the capsule is already damaged or it gets hit with too much air it can certainly kill the mic.

    All that said I've tossed many a large diaphragm mic including 87s, 103s, various 414's... Rode's, Blues etc directly in front of really loud amps and rarely had a problem. Even face melting amps at 110dB with the mic right on the cloth are no problem as long as the capsule can take the pressure and everything else downstream is gain staged properly. For instance the mic may take it but maybe the preamp its plugged into doesn't have enough headroom...

    Hang that 87 in front of the amp and see if you like the way it sounds. Unless the mic is already damaged you certainly won't hurt it.
     
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  7. jmoose

    jmoose Member

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    Completely disagree and not even close to my experiences.

    Typical dynamic like a 57, true they do have a freq response that's similar to a guitar speaker... that's sort of the problem.

    If the guitar speaker is acting like a filter and rolling off around 5-7kHz and the dynamic mic is also starting to fall off around there you basically wind up with two low pass filters that are completely overlapping and working in a similar range and slope. The combination often sounds small and nasal.

    With a typical condenser that's somewhat flat-ish out to about 15-20kHz on a guitar speaker, the mics frequency response doesn't fall off at 5kHz like the speaker... it keeps going and sounds "flatter" and more natural, more like what's actually coming out of the amp because the mic isn't chopping off all the top end so you're getting all the harmonic information.

    Whether you prefer one sound over the other is a matter of personal choice and how everything fits together in context.
     
  8. mscotts

    mscotts What?! Silver Supporting Member

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    U87 will work great on a guitar cab. Just don't smack the capsule with ridiculous SPLs-
     
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  9. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    To be clear, based on the OP saying a 4x12 cabinet I assumed he was talking about something high gain - Marshall/Mesa, etc. With that sound I often end up rolling off the highs (6k+ ) anyway because there isn't much there that doesn't just add harshness. I also find that by recording it that way, I can use the topmost high pass EQ in the mix (starting a little lower) to add smoothness and some air without any of the harshness (buzzing bee) sound that I wanted to avoid in the first place.

    Also - just based on experience, no matter what reason one posts, I just know that I almost never liked the sound of a U-87 or any LDC on a high gain guitar amp. Once in awhile you might find exceptions depending on how the amp is dialed in.
     
  10. Wizard of Ozz

    Wizard of Ozz Silver Supporting Member

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    Thanks for all the feedback... the impetus for this idea was from this article:

    https://www.soundonsound.com/people/metallica-one-classic-tracks

    Where Flemming talks about micing the guitar cabs with both a Shure SM7 and Neumann 87 right next to each other. To quote:

    "were each recorded with a Shure SM7 placed at a 45‑degree angle close to the cone of the best‑sounding speaker in the [Marshall] cabinet, as well as a Neuman U87 right next to it."

    I want to borrow one from a friend but obviously don't want to damage it either.
     
  11. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    If that is the plan then these graphs might help. I don't see the sm57 rolling off the high end of the guitar speaker, if anything it boosts it from 5k to 10k.

    The U-87 is similar but it is flatter on the low end. So, I would assume the 87 is there to get the low end bump. I suggest using the pad on the 87, but not the roll-off (unless it sounds better that way).

    Here is the frequency response of a Marshall 4x12 speaker cab:

    [​IMG]

    10k is down 50dB from 4k. On the low end it peaks at 120Hz and 600Hz.

    Here is the frequency response of an sm-57:

    [​IMG]

    It actually goes up from 3.5K to 10K ...and nicely rolls off at about 15k *which no one needs on a Marshall.


    Here is a U-87:

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Papanate

    Papanate Gold Supporting Member

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    I'll state up front that the U87 is not my 'go to' microphone for anything.
    That is unless I want that late 70s and all of the 80s 'sound'. The Sound on Sound
    article is pretty clear that the band was in a rut - with crap sounds - and what seems
    like to me - bad ears. IMO they got lucky - and hit a combination that the engineer
    could make sound better with a crapload of tweaking.

    So the question remains - did you inherit a U87? The ai model by any chance?
    If so - IME you are in for a roller coaster ride.

    For my sake - what amp, what 4 x12, what speakers, and what kind of studio?
    The U87 will pick a lot of nuances up - even on a flaming amp. The reason I think
    the SM7 was used was that it was filling in the large cracks the U87 has - that again
    IME the U87 captures a lot of kind of 'odd' sounds - especially at high volume - the
    midrange and slight bass frequency enhancement of the SM7 probably smoothed
    out the peakiness of the U87 in Mettalica's situation.

    Why haven't you simply wired up and recorded to see what you might think?
     
  13. buddyboy69

    buddyboy69 Member

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    use a 57 and the neumann together. 57 on the grill U87 back a few feet. blend them together in post. Ive had great results doing this, especially if you have multiple parts going on. Why not have it all?
     
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  14. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    ^This... I never said I don't like U87s on guitar cabinets, I used them all the time- not just for the close up mic. I would go anywhere from 2 to 6 feet back. The best thing to do to find the right blend. Set up the shure on the speaker and then have someone else go into the studio and move the 87 around while you listen in the control room. That's the best way to find the sweet spot.
     
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  15. jmoose

    jmoose Member

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    Might be worth noting that Flemming and quite a few other people who made "heavy" records back in the day would cut away the grille cloth so they could get the mic right on top of the speaker.

    I highly doubt you'll do any damage to the mic even if the amp is up at 120dB. If anything it'll reveal other shortcomings in the signal chain long before you have a chance to fry anything.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  16. Wizard of Ozz

    Wizard of Ozz Silver Supporting Member

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    I was going to borrow one from a friend... but didn't want to damage it. He has a pro studio and several expensive mics. I lend him amps on occasion. I think it is the ai version.

    Probably a Mesa Mark III/IV/JP2C thru a Bogner UberKab with 2 V30s and 2 GT75s. But was going to record it in my music room... UA Apollo Duo MKII to MacBook Pro with Logic Pro.
     
  17. Wizard of Ozz

    Wizard of Ozz Silver Supporting Member

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    Thanks. This is what I was going to do... until I read about using it as a close mic vs room mic. Will try it both ways.
     
  18. Papanate

    Papanate Gold Supporting Member

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    Well IMO that combo would work quite well with the U87 and SM7.
    The U87 on one of the V30s and the SM7 on one GT75 - careful with
    your phase between the two microphones - probably rock your world.
    Using the Apollo 610 Preamp might be interesting - or maybe something
    with color like the Neve emulation.

    One thing for sure - you are in for an audio adventure - that is cool stuff to
    play with.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  19. Papanate

    Papanate Gold Supporting Member

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    That bump at 4.5 kHz to peaking about 8 kHz is why I haven't really
    liked the U87. Back in the days of tape It was beneficial - in these days
    of Digital - I'm reaching for the EQ to shave the bump off - either that
    or pushing it through a preamp that puts a lot of character in the chain
    - I know a lot of friends use the Avalon 737 with the Babyface mod and
    the U87ai. That's the sound of Claptons 'Tears from Heaven'.
     
  20. nsureit

    nsureit Supporting Member

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    Try it as described with a dynamic (or two) on the cab, and the 87 in front. However, if you want to be more adventuresome, try a ribbon mic on the cab - real tight on the grill, and record as hot as you want. Ribbons are as tough as nails and can be driven hard with excellent results, and you won’t risk damage to a $1200 capsule. Not as delicate as you may have read. I use M160s and R121s all the time on cabs.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018

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